Cochon: Such a pretty word, but then again everything sounds pretty in French. Cochon my friends means pig in the language of love and it is the name of my first food indulgence in the city of New Orleans. The name is fitting, not due to the contents of the menu but more so due to what the contents of the menu will do to you. I’m not ashamed to say, Oui (that’s French for yes) I ate like a Cochon at Cochon.
The 45 minute wait on my empty stomach was almost a deal breaker. But the upbeat sounds of RJD2 and some darn good southern cocktails made time fly. With items like Strawberry moonshine, Ten Cane rum, ginger beer, and homemade blueberry syrup my stomach was not empty for long. *Tactical Tidbit* Hanging out at the bar while waiting for a table may get you a seat faster as bar areas are usually first come first serve and you can snag a spot the second someone gets up. See I’m not a lush, I’m a strategist. The menu consists of innovative pairings of southern style cooking with palate pleasing flavors like fried rabbit livers with pepper jelly toast or smoked pork ribs with watermelon pickle. For my appetizer, I opted for a Louisiana staple and my childhood favorite (thanks to my dad) fried alligator. And, for my main course I had the catfish courtbouillon (coo-be-yahn as I was corrected after my Kansas-ness led me to say court-ballon). The alligator was fried to perfection. Each bite delivered an audible crisp unmuffled by the tangy aioli it was tossed it. It was chewy as alligator is supposed to be, and incredibly juicy. The whole parsley sprinkled on top added a freshness to the garlicky kick of the sauce. I could have eaten and entire meal of just this, but my main course did not disappoint.
Courtbouillon is poached fish (meaning cooked in a liquid) but where French style court-bouillon is cooked in liquor, southern style is cooked in a thicker Cajun sauce. The aromatic herbs filled the air before my plate was even set in front of me. The catfish was local, much like the rest of the food on the menu, and there were two thick fillets. The freshness of the fish was evident in the flavor and texture. It was flaky with spicy undertones and a slight hint of lemon. The broth was overflowing with tomato and herb flavors absent of the fishiness that seafood stews can sometimes have. I didn’t feel like I was eating a bowl of Gulf water, the broth was just as satisfying as the fish it contained. The only disappointment by the end of my meal was that my stomach would not allow for me to gorge myself on more of Chef Links Cajun creations. Cochon provides an incredible integration of flavors while highlighting the culinary traditions of New Orleans. It’s a great way to kick off a night in NOLA.